The question of ‘who or what is a parent?’ is one that has been the subject of much debate in recent years, largely as the result of developments in assisted reproduction that allow the roles of genetic, gestational and social mother to be split in a way previously confined to the pages of science fiction and fantasy. While it has been possible for biological parentage to be decoupled from legal parenthood1 since adoption was first put on a legal footing in 1926, the questions raised by donor insemination, egg donation and surrogacy arrangements are even more complex. A key distinction between them is that the transfer of parenthood in adoption cases rests upon a decision as to the fitness of the individuals concerned, whereas the allocation of parenthood in the context of assisted reproduction depends on strict rules and abstract categories. The allocation — and, perhaps more crucially, the exercise — of parental responsibility in such cases will, however, depend in many cases on judicial evaluation of the family dynamics and the roles played by different individuals.
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